Saturday, November 12, 2016

Waterman's Other Numbering System

Waterman adopted a numbering system, sort of akin to what the company did with its fountain pens, for the mechanical pencils the company offered in the 1920s.  However, the numbering system for the pencils was different:  there’s no such thing, for example, as an “0552 pencil,” because the 2 was the nib size and the 5 in the tens spot denoted a lever filled pen.  David Nishimura explains the numbering system for the pens at his website (the direct link to that page is

The 1925 Waterman catalog, contained in the Pen Collectors of America’s online library, contains enough clues to piece together Waterman’s numbering system for its line of pencils.  Waterman built essentially three basic hard rubber pencils through the mid- to late 1920s: the 21, which was a thin, standard length model; the 21V, which was a shorter version of the thin pencil (“V” as in vest pocket), and the 25, which was the oversized, standard length pencil.  

Preceding the model number was a trim prefix.  Here are the ones represented in the 1925 catalog:

Prefix Trim
None No trim
4 Sterling overlay
05 Gold filled overlay
5 14k overlay
07 Single gold filled center band
7 Single 14k center band
09 Gold filled end cap
9 14k end cap
028 Two gold filled bands, at the nose and on the top

These trim codes are roughly analogous to the trim codes used on the fountain pens, to the extent they are applicable to pencils.  For example, a fountain pen with a prefix of 2 or 3 indicated a silver or gold overly on the barrel only, with a plain cap; I suppose if a pencil surfaced with only one half of the barrel overlaid in gold or silver that designation would also accompany the pencils, but I’ve never seen a Waterman pencil in that configuration.

The prefix 8 designated a solid gold cap band on the fountain pens, as opposed to the number 7 barrel band.  Since the pencil barrels were all one piece, it appears the company eliminated the number 8 as duplicative – sort of.  The “028" designation in the 1925 catalog is interesting.  Perhaps what was intended was “a little different from a number 7, like a number 8, but with two of them?”  I suppose a 28 trim prefix would mean two 14k bands, but one is not shown in the catalog.  Maybe a 018 would mean a single band, either on the top cap or at the nose.

After the model number (and the V, if it’s a shorter pencil), an N would denote a narrow band on banded models (7 or 07 prefixes).  If the model number concludes with “w.r.,” that stands for “with ring” - meaning a ringtop.

I suppose the exercise is academic, since model numbers weren’t stamped on pencils the way Waterman stamped its pens.  However, it’s kind of fun to be able to slap a model number on any Waterman pencil you see without hesitation.  It might make you sound as smart as a pen guy who takes one look at a Waterman pen and rattles off a model number as if he’s memorized the company’s catalog.


Michael McNeil said...

As a side note, the Waterman's hard rubber pencils that match the #94 and 994 were designated as a #95.

Myk Daigle said...

This is good, thank you Jonathan, I know its work, But I'd love to see a modern made chart with a photo of (Waterman's) pencil & the (code) model number next to it. ~~ also, I don't recall seeing a chased hard rubber waterman's pencil... -~Myk Daigle

Jon Veley said...

Michael - thanks and yes --- see

Myk, I've been thinking about that. I found out that I can't post tables in blogger, unfortunately, but I might make up a booklet for shows.